Aviation leaders, pioneers to address virtual WAI conference

The organization announced in November that it would hold a completely virtual conference for the safety and well-being of participants after studying trends from the continuing coronavirus pandemic.

“Although we are disappointed that we can’t meet in person, this virtual conference has allowed us to assemble a dynamic group of keynotes from all over the world,” said Women in Aviation International CEO Allison McKay in a February 19 news release. “We are excited that our virtual two-day gathering will enable more of our members to take advantage of the inspiring content, educational opportunities, and networking events.”

According to the event schedule, the opening speaker for the general session that begins at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time, on March 11 will be Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems, a division of Boeing Defense, Space and Security (BDS) focused on “autonomous technologies, intelligence capabilities, and networking solutions from seabed to space.” Robertson joined the company in 1994 and has held leadership positions including vice president of tiltrotor programs, Bell Boeing V–22 program director, and most recently, vice president of engineering and chief engineer for BDS Strike, Surveillance and Mobility. Previously she was employed by the U.S. Navy as a civilian electronics engineer at the Naval Aviation Depot in San Diego.

Capt. Aysha Alhameli, the first female pilot in the United Arab Emirates and the first UAE representative to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Council since 2009, will also address the session. Her pioneering accomplishments include being the first UAE permanent representative appointed to the ICAO council, and becoming, at age 28, the youngest permanent representative to the ICAO Council. In 2015, she was the first Arab female candidate to run for the post of secretary general, and in 2019 became the first woman to run for president of the ICAO Council. Alhameli started her career as a commercial pilot, and then joined the UAE Civil Aviation Authority as a senior officer for regulations and accident investigation. She established the Air Transport Department, and was the chief negotiator of the UAE, leading more than 80 bilateral air services negotiations. She has long been an advocate for gender equity who believes in empowering the next generation of aviation professionals. She is a founder and key supporter of ICAO’s flagship No Country Left Behind initiative.

In the afternoon session of the conference be sure to get acquainted with the U.S. Coast Guard’s first African American female pilots, an inspiring “group of five trailblazers who are proud to serve their country” who will take part in a panel discussion moderated by McKay. Nicknamed the Fab Five, the group includes Lt. Cmdr. Jeanine Menze, Lt. Cmdr. La’Shanda Holmes, Lt. Cmdr. Chanel Lee, Lt. Cmdr. Angel Hughes, and Lt. Ronaqua Russell. While each pilot has unique accomplishments, Menze is the Coast Guard’s first Black female aviator, and currently flies the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Holmes is the Coast Guard’s first Black female helicopter pilot, flying the Eurocopter H–65 Dolphin. Lee is also a helicopter pilot who flies the Sikorsky H–60 Jayhawk. Hughes serves as an aircraft commander and instructor pilot on the EADS HC–144 Ocean Sentry, and Russell files the EADS HC–144 and received the Air Medal for her heroic service during hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma.

The general session on March 12 will be addressed by Montserrat Barriga, director general of the European Regions Airline Association. The trade association represents “more than 60 airlines and 150 associate members, including manufacturers, airports, suppliers, and aviation service providers” before Europe’s major regulatory bodies, governments, and legislators to encourage and develop long-term and sustainable growth for the sector and the industry.” Barriga is responsible for her organization’s strategy and advocacy on policy and technical matters, including key industry concerns such as sustainable connectivity, and is “committed to highlighting the aviation sector’s vital contribution to Europe’s future economic prosperity,” particularly at the regional level. Barriga previously served as director of international development and industry affairs for the Spanish airline Binter, and led strategy development at Pullmantur Group.

Also scheduled to speak is Heather Wilson, a former secretary of the U.S. Air Force, former U.S. representative from New Mexico for 10 years, and former president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, who in 2019 became the eleventh president of the University of Texas at El Paso. Wilson has also served as a senior adviser to private-sector defense and scientific industry organizations. She is a member of the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation, and she chairs the FAA’s Women in Aviation Advisory Board. The granddaughter of immigrants who was the first person in her family to go to college, she graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in the third class to admit women and earned master’s and doctoral degrees from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar. She is an instrument-rated private pilot.

Hélène Gagnon since 2015 has managed Montreal-based technology company CAE Inc.’s brand “including public affairs, web and social media presence, corporate events as well as issues and crisis management” as senior vice president of public affairs, global communications and corporate social responsibility. She is a member of the company’s executive management committee and works to strengthen “relationships and communications with key internal and external stakeholders worldwide including CAE’s 10,000 employees, media, communities, and governments.” Gagnon previously worked at Bombardier Aerospace for 11 years, first as senior director of public affairs, and later as vice president of public affairs, communications, and corporate social responsibility.

For registration information and the full schedule of seminars, workshops, and other activities, visit the event website.

Fly8MA offering novel payment plan for tailwheel signoff

The program allows students to “name their price, or simply pay what they feel their training is worth, for up to 5 hours of instructor time,” he explained in an email. “If they are interested in tailwheel training, or just receiving more instruction post checkride, we do not want cost to be a barrier.”

Kotwicki estimated the total value for the tailwheel signoff is around $1,350 based on the $120-per-hour rental rate for a two-person Cessna 140, plus an additional $100-per-hour flight instructor fee.

A few stipulations apply: Candidates must be a private pilot or higher, with a current flight review, and they must complete the online tailwheel course prior to acceptance into the program.

The six-hour Fly8MA.com online tailwheel ground school is $49 and is required so “folks can show up as prepared as possible” and so they can “achieve a tailwheel endorsement within the allotted time,” he said. Kotwicki emphasized that he’s flexible and willing to work with tailwheel candidates “who really do not want to pay” for the prep course. “They can always call us up to show they adequately prepared using other resources. That works for us, too.”

Tailwheel aircraft owners may bring their own airplane, provided they can make arrangements to safely get themselves and their aircraft to Kotwicki’s Hurricane, Utah, location at General Dick Stout Field.

“Since many folks are not sure of the value” that tailwheel training might offer, “we decided to remove the financial risk from training,” Kotwicki said.

Kotwicki also offers a free private pilot ground school through the Fly8MA.com website and guarantees that students will pass their written tests and checkrides on their first try.

Mexico urged to reverse prohibition on experimental aircraft

In a letter to the Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics (DGAC), AOPA and EAA noted that “operation of such aircraft has been common practice for several decades, but a recent change in policy by the DGAC has led to a halt in operations. Many of our members are concerned about this change and we seek an expedient solution to this problem.”

Under U.S. regulations, aircraft that are issued special airworthiness certificates, including experimental aircraft, bear a limitation that the aircraft does not meet the airworthiness standards of Annex 8 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation. Such aircraft may only fly over a foreign country with that country’s permission and carry a document to that effect. The document must be made available on request “to an FAA inspector or the applicable foreign authority in the country of operation.”

“Both The Bahamas and Canada use ‘blanket’ authorizations that allow any FAA-registered Amateur-Built aircraft that follows certain conditions to enter those countries without additional authorizations. The operator simply prints out the authorization and carries it aboard his or her aircraft, in accordance with the above operating limitation,” the letter said, urging Mexico to adopt a similar approach.

The letter also noted that under FAA regulations, the 21,000 experimental amateur-built aircraft operating in the United States “are only allowed to be flown for non-commercial purposes.”

AOPA and EAA included a prior authorization issued by the DGAC to an amateur-built aircraft from the United States in the letter as an example of past practice—also noting that “the Directorate may consider a simpler means of granting the required permission.”

AOPA, FAA medical leaders meet

FAA Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Susan Northrup grew up in an aviation family, is a private pilot, and understands general aviation. Photo courtesy of the FAA.

“This new leadership team at the FAA’s Office of Aerospace Medicine is determined and action-oriented,” said Baker. “I know changes that are needed will not happen overnight, but the willingness to address and fix the problems associated with obtaining a medical or special issuance is long overdue and welcome.”

Northrup is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, a senior FAA aviation medical examiner and board certified in aerospace medicine and occupational medicine, and a private pilot. Wyrick, who previously served as acting director, is an Air Force veteran, is dual board certified in general surgery and aerospace medicine, and serves as the deputy joint staff surgeon in the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Wyrick is also a private pilot and a senior aviation medical examiner for the FAA.

“Coming from a family of aviators, I fully understand the opportunities and challenges the GA community faces with the medical certification process, and we look forward to working with AOPA on a plan to alleviate the difficulties,” said Northrup.

FAA Deputy Federal Air Surgeon Dr. Brett Wyrick is also a private pilot. Photo courtesy of the FAA.

“Whether it is receiving threatening correspondence from the FAA, response time, knowing where your application is in the process, whom to contact at the FAA, moving away from regular mail to emails, there are many issues to address,” Baker added. “To say that I am encouraged by this new team is an understatement. I know the FAA wants to get pilots safely in the air. We share that goal, but some of the FAA’s processes need to be modernized and upgraded, which will help pilots and the FAA.”

Joining Baker in the meeting were members of AOPA’s Board of Aviation Medical Advisors: Drs. Ian Fries (chair), an orthopedic surgeon and FAA aviation medical examiner; Brent Blue, an emergency medicine and family medicine practitioner; Chuck Denison, an aviation and forensic psychologist; Sean Malone, an internist; Richard Roth, an infectious disease expert; and Kenneth Stahl, a cardiothoracic surgeon, all of whom are avid GA pilots and accomplished physicians in their respective fields. The AOPA Board of Aviation Medical Advisors provides expertise in advancing solutions to address long-overdue reforms to the FAA’s medical certification processes.

AOPA’s Pilot Information Center receives more than 40,000 medical-related calls annually.

AOPA has a wealth of medical resources and professionals available to members as part of our Pilot Protection Services program.

FAA launches forty-third annual GA survey

The confidential survey, which takes 10 to 15 minutes to complete, is the only source of information on the GA fleet’s activity in the previous year, such as the number of hours flown and the ways people use GA aircraft.

Data on more than 80,000 aircraft, or about 30 percent of the GA fleet, contributes to the research effort.

Survey data is used to determine safety metrics such as accident rates, and to understand the impact of the GA industry on jobs, economic output, and investments in aviation infrastructure. Having information across a broad range of aircraft helps policymakers determine funding for aviation services, assess the impact of regulatory changes, and more.

Participation is voluntary. AOPA encourages everyone who is contacted about the survey by email or postcard to participate—even if you did not fly your aircraft in 2020, or if you sold it, or if it was damaged.

There is an abbreviated survey form available for owners/operators of three or more aircraft. Contact the survey firm, Tetra Tech, toll-free at 800-826-1797 or by email.

Some owners who were asked to participate in the preceding survey may be contacted again in 2021. Certain groups of aircraft are surveyed annually to better understand aviation activity of high-use groups, such as turbine aircraft, rotorcraft, newer aircraft, and Alaska-based aircraft.

Over the years the survey has more than doubled in size to provide better statistical estimates without compromising confidentiality. Survey content is also updated to reflect changes in regulations and equipage, including advancements in avionics.

Past survey results may be viewed on the FAA website.

VFR charts to go on 56-day cycle starting February 25

According to the FAA, beginning February 25, “all Sectional Aeronautical, VFR Terminal Area (TAC), VFR Flyway Planning, VFR Aeronautical, and Helicopter Route Charts will be updated and continue to be updated every 56 days” to coincide with the publication dates of other en route, terminal, and supplemental chart products.

Changing the publication cycles required the FAA to amend the publication dates of numerous charts, making many of them obsolete before the final effective date published on the charts.

The FAA listed such amendments in a charting notice published on August 13, 2020.

In reporting on the change in April 2020, AOPA noted the FAA’s expectation that the change would result in significant reductions of chart-related notams because new information will be added to charts more quickly than was the case on the prior publication cycles of 168 days to two years.

The change will also make the chart bulletins that are contained in chart supplement volumes unnecessary, the FAA said at that time.

AOPA advocated for the chart-cycle change, and noted that based on pilot surveys, approximately 90 percent of pilots were primarily using electronic charts.

Bessie Coleman centennial celebrates legacy of inspiration

What follows is a brief and engaging video journey back into early aviation history to meet Bessie Coleman, the first woman pilot of African American and Native American descent, who earned her pilot’s license 100 years ago this June.

Bessie Elizabeth Coleman was born in Atlanta, Texas, on January 26, 1892, the tenth child of 13. Coleman—portrayed in the four-minute video (and in a longer live performance) by her real-life grandniece, Gigi Coleman-Brooms—reminisces about how her father, George Coleman, always assured her that she could so anything she dreamed of doing.

Photo courtesy of Gigi Coleman-Brooms.

At age 6, Bessie Coleman started school, which meant walking three miles one way—a nearer school was not open to her because of segregation.

She loved school. “I was an avid reader, and I loved mathematics,” Gigi-as-Bessie Coleman says, telling the audience that as she grew up, she worked hard and saved money to attend college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. However, she could only afford one semester.

At age 23, she moved to Chicago, staying with two of her brothers and finding work as a beautician. Her brothers told her stories of their experiences in France during World War I. They teased her about what women in France were doing, informing her that “they’re even flying airplanes.”

Bessie had been pondering goals for her future; when she heard that women in France were soaring in the sky as pilots, she knew what she wanted to do.

However, “She applied to many flight schools across the country, but no school would take her because she was both African American and a woman,” notes a biography of her posted online by the National Women’s History Museum.

At the barbershop where she worked, Bessie Coleman had met newspaper publisher Robert Abbott, who encouraged her to go to France to pursue her dream of flying. She took French classes at night to get ready—and so began a legendary journey in the history of aviation.

June 15 will mark the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman earning her international pilot’s license issued by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. (Two years later, Amelia Earhart would be issued a pilot’s license by the same authority.)

The biography notes that as she gained renown at performing aerobatics, nicknames were bestowed on her such as “Brave Bessie,” “Queen Bess,” and “The Only Race Aviatrix in the World.”

Bessie Coleman’s career was cut short in Jacksonville, Florida, on April 30, 1926, when the Curtiss JN–4 Jenny she was test-flying with mechanic William Wills went out of control and crashed—the accident attributed to a loose wrench that had jammed controls.

As her centennial approaches, the nonprofit educational Bessie Coleman Aviation All-stars organization, led by Coleman-Brooms, has been planning to commemorate it with a 10-city U.S. tour—part virtual and perhaps part in-person this fall if possible because of the coronavirus pandemic—that will “land” in key places along Bessie Coleman’s journey from her birthplace in Texas to France.

The commemoration is to be chaired nationally by aviation pioneer Dr. Sheila Chamberlain, the first U.S. Army African American woman combat intelligence aviator, and former president of the South Florida Chapter of the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals, and a Tuskegee Airmen Legacy Member.

As with so many other events during the pandemic, scheduling will depend on what libraries, airport, and museum facilities are open for presentations, the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-stars said in a Facebook post.

Coleman-Brooms said the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-stars organization plans to present 10 scholarships under its award program, plus one in each city on the tour, in partnership with local organizations, each awarded to a deserving young person “who wants to go to school for aviation.”

The commemoration furthers the group’s continuing work to inspire a new generation to embrace aviation as a career path by telling Bessie Coleman’s story.

The Bessie Coleman Aviation All-stars organization works to present aviation career opportunities to disadvantaged youth at the Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy in Chicago, where it participates in the After School Matters program for Chicago teens. “Students learn aviation history, operate flight simulators,” and have “visited airports, flown drones, obtained drone certification and flown airplanes,” notes the Bessie Coleman official website.

Coleman-Brooms, who has performed as Bessie Coleman at aviation museums and other major venues including EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was raised on stories about her grandaunt, who was honored with a commemorative stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service on April 27, 1995.

“I am passionate in my endeavor to inform the world about the achievements of Bessie Coleman in the field of aviation,” Coleman-Brooms says in an introduction to her one-woman production, The Life of Bessie Coleman.

“Let me tell her story to challenge the minds of our young and old and encourage individuals to achieve their dreams. I also challenge them to be leaders and not followers,” she said.

Terrafugia pulls US plug on Transition flying car

The magazine reported that “80 to 100 employees at the company’s headquarters” in Woburn, Massachusetts, “have been let go, and that Terrafugia’s intellectual property and further development of the Transition” LSA “are being moved to China by owner Zhejiang Geely Holding Group” with plans to discontinue U.S. operations in the coming months.

The company was founded by Carl Dietrich in 2006 with a group of fellow Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates as the first practical flying car since Moulton Taylor’s Aerocar of the 1950s. AOPA previously reported that Geely Holding completed the Terrafugia acquisition in 2017 in an effort to expand Geely’s growing portfolio of personal transportation companies.

The latest setback for the Transition flying car occurred just a few weeks after the FAA granted a special LSA airworthiness certificate for the twin-boom, pusher-prop design on January 26. The measure allowed the company to produce the flying four-wheeled craft for aviation purposes in the United States, though it was still awaiting federal approval to drive on public roadways.

The pathway to the sky was not a direct route, and the Terrafugia Transition needed regulatory help along the way. AOPA supported the company’s bid for an FAA exemption granted in 2016 that allowed the Transition to fly as an LSA at a gross weight significantly above the 1,320 pounds otherwise allowed. The exception accommodated the heft of the folding wing mechanism and additional safety equipment more common to road vehicles.

A Rotax 912iS Sport fuel-injected engine can propel the Transition through the air at 100 mph; Dynon SkyView avionics provide flight deck familiarity; and an airframe parachute rounds out the aviation safety package. NBC reported a projected price of around $400,000 in 2018, about $100,000 more than AOPA reported in 2015.

Unique car-like features include four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes, a circular steering wheel/yoke mechanism, and folding wings that allow the aircraft to tuck into a one-car garage. However, the multipurpose vehicle pays a steep price for its versatility and tips the scales at 1,800 pounds because of Department of Transportation automobile safety and environmental rules.

Calls and emails to the company were not immediately returned.

Piper to offer apprenticeship info sessions online

The first class of nine paid apprentices began their two-year journey in 2019 and coincided with Piper orders driven by more than 250 training aircraft through contracts with Fanmei Aviation Technologies in China and ATP Flight School in the United States. The aircraft fabrication program for apprentices grew to 20 the following year.

Piper CEO Simon Caldecott launched the program with the intent to train aircraft fabrication and assembly workers during a hands-on, two-year initiative at the manufacturer’s Vero Beach, Florida, assembly line. The inaugural group of Indian River State College students who joined the initiative will complete their two-year stints this summer.

The 2021 apprenticeship class will be the manufacturer’s third group when their training begins in August. Potential apprentices can attend virtual information sessions March 10 at 6 p.m. Eastern time, March 30 at 7 p.m., April 8 at 8 p.m., or April 20 at 7 p.m.

The information sessions will provide program details and answer questions about work schedules, college credit, benefits, expectations, and the application process. Piper said the online sessions will be available via smartphone, tablet, or home computer.

At the end of the program, the apprentices will qualify as aircraft assembly journeymen after completing a combination of on-the-job training, classroom instruction, and mentorship.

The longtime aircraft manufacturer counts more than 37,000 aircraft produced since 1937 and currently has about 1,000 workers making the company’s 13 aircraft models, which range from the M600/SLS turboprop with Garmin Autoland technology to the Pilot 100 and 100i line of normally aspirated three-person single-engine trainers. The application deadline is May 28.

CDC stops short of requiring testing for domestic air travel

The decision to not require testing for domestic air travel came after the aviation industry met on a call with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to discuss the idea.

Several news outlets reported the CDC saying that “at this time, CDC is not recommending required point of departure testing for domestic travel. As part of our close monitoring of the pandemic, in particular the continued spread of variants, we will continue to review public health options for containing and mitigating spread of COVID-19 in the travel space.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said February 12 that “reports that there is an intention to put in place new requirements, such as testing, are not accurate” regarding domestic air travel.

AOPA participated in the February 10 call with Buttigieg, explaining that a mandate would not be practical or necessary for domestic general aviation flights.

In addition, AOPA and 22 other aviation and travel organizations authored a background paper about the negative consequences a domestic mandate would have on the country. That paper was sent to Congress and government officials.

AOPA continues to be in close contact with federal agencies regarding coronavirus-related travel restrictions, advocating on pilots’ behalf.